If you’re building a wood deck and want something that will look attractive and last, Ipe decking is an excellent choice. Ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”) is a super-dense hardwood indigenous to the rainforests of South America, and it provides a durable decking option.
One winsome characteristic of Ipe wood is that it’s incredibly resistant to rotting, due to the hardness and density of the wood. In fact, according to the Janka scale which measures hardness, Ipe is more than twice as hard as Hickory, 3.5 times harder than Teak, and over 10 times as hard as Cedar wood. The hardness of a wood clearly relates to its durability, a significant trait for any flooring, but especially the kind expected to weather the outdoors.
In addition to its hardness, the density of Ipe is almost incredible: It actually has the same fire code as metal or concrete. In fact, if you place a piece in water, it will not float; instead, it will sink to the bottom. As the heaviest commercially-used wood, Ipe weighs in at 66 pounds per cubic foot. By comparison, Oak’s density is 43, Teak’s is 40, and Cedar’s, 22. This super-density prohibits rotting as well as damage from termites or other pests. This wood is also famously resistant to splintering, warping, pulling loose, or popping up. Even without any kind of sealing or preserving, an Ipe deck is expected to last for 25 to 50 years. Sealing the ends might be helpful in preventing end wax, but that’s a personal preference.
While the durability of Ipe might be nice, its good looks alone would be enough to charm you past any durability concerns. The wood’s dark color and tight grain allow for consistent coloring and lack of knots. Without the artificial coloring of stain—or the cost and effort involved in repeated staining—you can have a natural dark brown deck. Depending on your deck’s exposure to direct sunlight and the number of months your area receives the sun’s warm smile, you may want to consider applying a penetrating sealer periodically. By blocking UV rays from penetrating your deck, its natural brown hue will be preserved. Naturally, Ipe weathers into a silvery gray that many find appealing, too.
Like most woods, Ipe comes in a small variety of grades. Most carpenters agree on the superiority of the Clear All Heart wood that comes from Northern Brazil. That particular type of Ipe is the darkest brown with the tightest grain; however, all Ipe wood equally resists rotting. In addition to its technical name, Ipe is commonly referred to by trade names such as Ironwood TM, Pau Lope TM, and Brazilian Walnut. Dealers also refer to Ipe as “Tiger Deck” and “Diamond Deck.” Other names include Greenheart, Madera Negra, and Tahuari. This wood is the product of canopy-style trees that typically reach 120 feet, with trunks measuring 3 feet; some varieties of ironwood can stretch up to 150 feet, with 6-foot trunks.
Due to the remarkable durability of this special wood, the market for Ipe decking is increasing steadily. You can be assured that J. Gibson McIlvain, a wholesale importer and supplier of Ipe decking lumber, has plenty in supply to meet the growing need.
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